Benefits – Jobs
What could 4,400 new jobs mean to you?
The South Down Project is likely to be the largest brownfield regeneration scheme for the south coast, and its long-term positive economic, social and cultural impact will benefit generations to come, providing much needed homes, jobs, skills and training opportunities, new business and leisure accommodation, as well as a vibrant cultural offer.
This regeneration will create new jobs in a region in which the pressure to create new, sustainable, jobs for our businesses and families is continuous. It has been estimated that the South Down Project could create 1,500 construction jobs whilst the project is being built, and on its completion, create some 4,400 new, permanent, employment opportunities for local people.
If delivered successfully, the scheme could bring in £1.3billion of inward investment to the area, and in total provide an estimated £90million annually to the local economy and an economic impact of close to £1billion over ten years.
The site of the South Down Project lies within the Coastal West Sussex area – still an underperforming part of the Coast to Capital economy. However, it may have the opportunity to build on the success of Brighton & Hove, in particular, if it can provide the housing, transport infrastructure and employment space required by residents and businesses alike.
Its skills base, its demographic profile and the structure of its economy mean that Coastal West Sussex is not yet able to develop a high value added economy, and it is likely to continue to have to meet the challenges of an ageing population. Nevertheless, if it manages to attract higher skilled younger people out of other areas, including Brighton & Hove, and can retain or bring back its own higher skilled people, then the skills base of its resident population may increase over time, as a matter of course.
The South Down Project is one of a number of planned major developments in Coastal West Sussex, which could help to spread economic benefits more easily and create a “polycentric” approach to sub-regional economic growth, where the strengths of its constituent parts complement each other.
The growth in employment and more productive economic activity in urban centres seem to be clear patterns, not just locally. The concentration of people and businesses attracts and retains talent. However, it can also lead to capacity constraints within small geographical areas and unaffordable housing costs for young and potentially mobile workers. Projected population increases will require a considerable uplift in the rate of house building, compared with historic trends, but there will also be a need for sufficient employment space in the right locations, including the South Down Project, to ensure that Coastal West Sussex develops a vibrant economy with good quality jobs. The resulting population growth has considerable infrastructure cost implications and there appears to be a clear gap in funding, which may be difficult to address through traditional means.
Spreading the Benefits of Growth
The effective integration of housing, transport and employment are key to supporting economic development. Economic growth in the Greater Brighton & Coastal West Sussex area has been heavily concentrated in Brighton & Hove and, to a much lesser extent, Chichester.
This is where most jobs growth has occurred, where residents are most highly qualified and where most value added activity takes place. Half (49%) of all jobs in Greater Brighton & Coastal West Sussex (GBCWS) are now in Brighton & Hove or Chichester, compared with just 35% in 1997. This is a feature of the agglomeration effects that concentrated urban centres, well served by supporting facilities (including universities), can bring.
The South Down Project can help rebalance this
Much of the rest of the Coastal West Sussex sub-region has not yet shared fully in this economic success. Its resident population is much older and less well-qualified and it has not yet developed a sufficiently diverse economy to support higher value added employment.
Current forecasts suggest that there will be around 57,000 more jobs in GBCWS by 2031 and that a disproportionate number of these are likely to be in Brighton & Hove and Chichester. Meanwhile population projections suggest that Coastal West Sussex will have an even larger dependent population of older people.
However, Brighton & Hove may be over-heating and may struggle to continue to grow within its existing physical constraints. High house prices and an unbalanced stock are “forcing” young people, in particular, into rented accommodation and out of the city to neighbouring areas, when their housing needs change. This increases the pressure on the already stretched transport infrastructure, as they commute back into the city to work.
Policy makers are considering a “polycentric” approach to economic development, where each of its constituent parts develops a clear and complementary role to support economic growth. Currently, the Coastal West Sussex districts/boroughs have only a “minor role” in office market terms and much of its economy is reliant on traditional sectors that seem unlikely to be significant growth drivers.
However, many of the major employment sites, including the South Down Project, are located outside its most productive centres. These could help to spread employment growth more evenly, but only if they are brought forward, more effectively linked to each other through better transport connectivity, and linked to where suitable housing is located.
Improving Workforce Skills
Studies have consistently identified the relative weakness in the skills of Coastal West Sussex residents as a barrier to a dynamic, knowledge intensive economy. The proportion of local residents with Level 3+ qualifications is below the South East region average amongst all age groups and improving both employability and entrepreneurial skills amongst young people, in particular, is consistently identified by local businesses as a priority.
The quality of available labour can be an important factor in where businesses choose to invest, and whilst it is right to invest in the area’s physical infrastructure, the Coastal West Sussex economy cannot reach its full potential without also strengthening its human capital assets.
The impending review of Post 16 education and training institutions should help to clarify and focus local skills priorities. Its aim is to establish the most appropriate set of institutions to deliver high quality provision, based on the current and future needs of local learners and employers.
The Devolution Prospectuses also set out aims to develop a more locally relevant curriculum; a stronger focus on apprenticeships, particularly linked to STEM related opportunities; and a more co-ordinated approach to career advice
Want to know more?
Local policy makers have published a series of background reports to inform economic development priorities in Greater Brighton and West Sussex. These are:
- GBEB Background Paper 1: Economy – Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners – May 2015
- GBEB Background Paper 2: Housing Market – Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners – May 2015
- GBEB Background Paper 3: Transport System – Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners – May 2015
- The West Sussex Infrastructure Study (draft) – AECOM – August 2015
- Coast to Capital Infrastructure Study (draft) – Arup – August 2015